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New Green Ratings in the Offing for Health Care Facilities

In late 2007, the U.S. Green Building Council said that it and the Green Guide for Health Care reached an understanding to create a new rating system called LEED for Healthcare.

Before 2007, few hospitals and health care organizations chose to take the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) route and instead focused on obtaining the requirements laid out in the green guide.

A health care-specific rating system was not available.

Palomar Pomerado Health, a hospital district serving North County, decided early in the planning process of Palomar Medical Center West (the health care organization refers to it as the “hospital of the future”) to use sustainable design but not seek LEED certification.

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Funded by a $496 million bond measure approved by voters in 2004, the hospital is expected to have up to 600 beds and be completed in 2011.

Now, with plans for the LEED for Healthcare program under way and the hospital’s groundbreaking four months ago, PPH has decided to go for certification, says Frances Moore, project architect and senior associate at Los Angeles-based Co-Architects.


‘Increased Sensitivity’

“The green guide (was) more comprehensive from the beginning,” she said. “LEED is more generic.”

The LEED for Healthcare system will incorporate health care-specific issues such as “increased sensitivity to chemicals and pollutants, traveling distances from parking facilities, and access to natural spaces,” according to the Web site for the Green Building Council.

It can be used at inpatient, outpatient and long-term-care facilities as well as medical office buildings, assisted living facilities and medical education centers.

Already focused on maintaining flexibility within the plans, the design team for PPH is aware of needed documentation for the application process but will not have to change much in its plans, according to Moore.

A handful of hospitals and health care organizations in San Diego County have sought traditional LEED certification, including the new facility for La Maestra Community Health Centers, which is under construction, and Rady Children’s Hospital and Health Center.

Others, such as Kaiser Permanente’s hospitals and medical office buildings, are sticking to a more generalized green initiative.

In 2000, Kaiser built a 35,000-square-foot administration building in La Mesa. Although it applied to meet the requirements of a LEED silver rating, Kaiser decided not to obtain the actual certification.


Cautious

“We were comfortable with that,” said Eva Szots, architect and director of facilities, development and operations at Kaiser. “It’s a huge administrative effort. We’re very cautious, very frugal and think things through very seriously about how we spend our members’ money.”

Since then, Kaiser has gradually changed out light bulbs to low wattage and added vegetation that requires less water in landscaping at its hospitals and medical office buildings around the county.

According to Szots, because of the gradual process of going green, costs have remained the same and equal the basic upkeep for the facilities.

The construction cost for the La Mesa site was, in fact, lower because an on-site demolished building was used for the foundation and grading of the current site, Szots says.

The green guide and the Green Building Council have worked together for nearly five years and will continue to work together to create educational tools and the rating process, according to Adele Houghton, project manager for the Green Guide for Health Care.

“We can be much more successful in tandem,” she said. “There’s a lot of overlap.”

It has not yet been announced when LEED for Healthcare certification will be available.

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